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What Is… Squash?

What Is… Squash?

Everyone has heard about the famous Fall food that encompasses pumpkins, butternut squash, and types of gourd. But here is a bit of the long history to this incredible food.

Squash got its name from the Native American word "asktuasquash". This means “eaten raw or uncooked”.* They are one of the oldest crops in the world. Certain estimates predict them to be over 10,000 years old.

In the early days, people used squash’s hard, outer shell as a container. They also made squash into utensils. The fruit itself was bitter and poisonous.

Camels and horses would spread the squash by carrying the seeds around the continent. Then, early farming continued the spread of squash. However, many types of squash did die out. It would take about 7,000 years for farmers to grow squash that was safe to eat.

Squash was also important to the Native American growing process. The Native Americans used a system called the "three sisters" system. In it, each crop (corn, beans, and squash) would assist the other’s growth.

The Native Americans planted corn, and then planted beans a few weeks later. The beans would grow around the corn stalks, keeping the beans off the ground. The beans would add nitrogen to the soil, which would support the corn.

Here's where the squash comes in.

The Native Americans would plant squash around the corn and beans. Squash’s leaves prevented water from evaporating. Squash also prevented weeds from killing the other crops. Native Americans ate the crops together because of the different vitamins they provided.

At first, Europeans were not impressed with squash. Once they had to learn to survive the American winter, they adopted squash as a staple of the American Diet.

The early settlers would bake the squash and moisten it with animal fat, maple syrup, or honey. Because of its hard exterior, many squashes (like pumpkin) were preserved for a long period of time. They were also eaten throughout the winter. By 1796, Americans were making Pumpkin Pie.

Squash is also a pretty healthy food. It is filled with Vitamins A, B, and C. Squash also contains lots of Carotenes. And because of Squash’s high water content, squash is also low in calories.

There you have it! Who's making pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving? Let us know on Facebook.

 

*Sources

https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/squash.html

https://quatr.us/nativeamerican/three-sisters-corn-beans-squash.htm

https://quatr.us/central-america/squash-food-history-central-america.htm